Spotlight on Enterprise Innovation

Joel Semeniuk and Rod Giesbrecht explore the ways that global solutions firm Imaginet helps organizations inject innovation into processes and products.

Rod Giesbrecht and Joel Semeniuk cofounded Imaginet after a unexpected conversation with a Winnipeg taxi driver. | Photo by Ian McCausland

It was a late night in Chicago, and two business associates from Winnipeg, Manitoba, were walking in the Near West Side when they noticed they had crossed into a dangerous neighborhood. The friendly lights of the United Center were gone. Suddenly, a taxi pulled alongside them. The driver lowered the window and instructed the
Canadians to climb aboard.

Thankfully, the friendly cabbie—after issuing a stern warning about safety—drove Joel Semeniuk and Rod Giesbrecht to a nearby transit station and helped them find their way. What they first thought was a mugging turned out to be the help of a guardian angel. The shell-shocked men stepped into a small café to collect themselves and started talking about life, meaning, and purpose. That conversation continued as Semeniuk and Giesbrecht boarded their train home, and that talk became Imaginet. “The incident left us inspired to do something more, something better,” Giesbrecht recalls. “We wanted to invent something great together and inspire others to join us for the journey.”

“CIOs are generally risk averse, but we can step in, understand where technology is going, experiment, and then bring a solution back into a steady-state environment and make it part of operations.” Rod Giesbrecht

That was eighteen years ago. Today, the growing Imaginet has a presence in Canada and the United States, and is known for helping enterprises adopt and build upon Microsoft innovation. The company’s services include cloud and infrastructure solutions, application development, enterprise innovation, and change management for the innovation life cycle.

But Semeniuk and Giesbrecht are injecting a fresh approach into the innovation management space through a unique proprietary model they call enterprise modernization. “It’s about leveraging the wealth of cheap and abundant technology to dramatically change the fabric of a company and how people in that company work,” Semeniuk says. In working with clients, those at Imaginet might start by modernizing basic IT software, but they extend deeper into finding new ways to use emerging products like the Microsoft HoloLens to change the very nature of collaboration. While leaders, employees, and citizens often see innovation as a new product or service, Imaginet’s leaders preach the value of the failed experiments that led to that success. “Innovation is much more about managing failure than it is about managing success. Throughout the innovation life cycle, failure is expected. Knowing this brings a different approach by running small experiments so that you can fail faster,” Semeniuk explains.

How Innovation is Changing Industries

Health Care Experts forecast the international global printed and flexible sensors market to climb to $8 billion over the next decade.

Wearables Over the next four years, the wearable device market will grow to be worth around $12 billion.

New Technology Google acquired Nest—a smart thermostat company—for $3.2 billion.

Automotive The $90,000 Tesla Model S passes all other cars in Consumer Report’s test ratings.

Agriculture Industry analysts say remote crop monitoring through mobile applications and drone technology will become a multibillion dollar business over the next fifteen years.

Hospitality and Transportation Companies like Airbnb and Uber harness mobility and tech tools to create massive lodging and ride-sharing successes. Uber reached a valuation of around $40 billion with operations in more than fifty countries worldwide.

Many modern organizations have moved away from innovation in favor of stability. In response, Semeniuk and Giesbrecht have built a company that collaborates with clients to navigate the future of IT and how it applies to business. Instead of merely keeping devices running, IT departments need to harness technology to advance a company’s mission. “CIOs are generally risk averse, but we can step in, understand where technology is going, experiment, and then bring a solution back into a steady-state environment and make it part of operations,” says Giesbrecht, adding that IT professionals cannot afford to address innovation and operations in the same way.

Today, it’s executives and employees who are driving enterprise innovation. Those individuals see advancements and improvements all around them at home and are realizing that things aren’t the same way at work. “People use Dropbox to share pictures with friends and wonder why they can’t collaborate at work,” says Giesbrecht. “We use cheap wearables to monitor our activity and heartbeats in the consumer space, but we can’t always monitor workers in dangerous situations.” Imagine engineers collaborating remotely, viewing all angles of a project through 3-D or holographic imaging. Those issues and a discontentment in the corporate space are driving Imaginet to help clients consumerize the enterprise.

The company offers innovation as a service, through which they experiment for a client and return with outcomes. Or, Imaginet looks at a business’s innovation life cycle and implements steps for improvement. The company’s products and services extend across business innovation, enterprise mobility, interactive technologies, and startups focusing primarily on the Microsoft platform.

Imaginet is working with organizations of all sizes that have two things in common—the desire for change and a concern about efficiencies. Clients include companies in oil and gas, heath care, manufacturing, financial services, the public sector, and elsewhere. These clients face many challenges, and mobility is often preeminent among them.
Companies have to manage devices from three main providers of mobile technology for business across a number of devices—and they have to do this in a secure way on a platform that constantly changes. The challenge is forcing CIOs to think about cloud, wearables, and the use of new audio-video devices. Imaginet is preparing clients in all areas by maintaining a culture of innovation at home. “We built this company to be a hub for creative people who think in a new way, and who are willing and brave,” says Semeniuk. “We’re an innovation engine that helps clients use technology to drive business results. That’s what we do.”